Electronic bicyling map to help riders, road planners

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MPR Photo/Jeffrey Thompson

By Jon Collins

The Minnesota Department of Transportation is gathering comments from bicyclists across Minnesota to help create the state’s first official electronic bicycling map.

State transportation officials plan to use comments gathered in the study to help bicyclists find their way around and guide the department’s approach to building roads and other transit projects.

“When you’re developing a project, if you don’t have a complete picture of where the bicycle network is, or where the gaps are, it’s difficult to prioritize where we can provide extra accommodation to fill in some of those gaps,” MnDOT transportation planner Greta Alquist said.

The department’s last map, distributed in 2001, was printed on paper. Its decision to seek more input from bicyclists makes sense, given efforts by other state agencies to promote biking for its health benefits, said Dorian Grilley executive director of the Bicycle Alliance of Minnesota.

As biking has gained more popularity across the state, Grilley said, most of the “low-hanging fruit” of abandoned rail lines and roads have already been converted into bike trails. He said bicyclists should add their comments to the study to continue improving bike transit in the state by also making standard roads and highways more safe and accessible for bicyclists.

“Much of the transportation infrastructure, with very little investment, could be significantly improved to make it more bike friendly without causing disruption to traffic or motor vehicle traffic,” Grilley said.

Three rounds of meetings will take place across the state, with the first round of meetings starting this week. For people unable to attend the meetings, MnDOT has also set up a statewide online discussion on March 22.

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